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US Supreme Court shows flexibility in first day of Samsung v. Apple case

In hearing oral arguments from Apple and Samsung, justices for the U.S. Supreme Court hinted at some willingness to consider Samsung's position as it fights for reduced damages in a case over infringed iPhone design patents.

Out of the court's eight justices, several expressed skepticism that they could create a test for lower courts and juries that could be used to calculate damages based on design patents, according to Reuters.

"If I were a juror, I wouldn't know what to do," said Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Another justice, Elena Kagan, used the analogy of a Volkswagen Beetle, commenting that it might be difficult for a jury to decide what to award in a case based on the car's unique shape, even if it might be main reason some shoppers were buying it.

That view is similar to one expressed by Samsung, which is challenging $399 million out of the $548.2 million it has already paid out to Apple in the lawsuit — the first figure being for violating three patents on the bezel, front face, and homescreen of the iPhone. That sum was based on all of the profits from infringing phones, but Samsung is contending that should've only paid a smaller amount, likening the situation to forfeiting all of the profits from a car because the cupholder is infringing.

Apple has claimed that the infringed patents were closer to the design of an entire car, and that in lower courts Samsung failed to show that the patents were relevant to just parts of its devices.

The Supreme Court should issue a final ruling by the end of June. The outcome could have serious ramifications for Apple and Samsung, for instance affecting Apple's attempts to collect another $180 million, and theoretically a federal appeals court ruling which reinstated $119.6 million in damages against Samsung for violating a "slide-to-unlock" patent.